JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Health is urging parents to protect their children from severe illnesses and death, by having them vaccinated.
  • Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective interventions in public health, saving some 2 to 3 million children’s lives each year.
  • The Ministry has been working on public education efforts to sensitise parents to the benefits of vaccination.

The Ministry of Health is urging parents to protect their children from severe illnesses and death, by having them vaccinated.

They are also being encouraged to discuss any concerns or fears they may have with a health professional.

In an interview with JIS News, Programme Development Officer in the Family Services Unit of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Yvonne Munroe, explained that immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective interventions in public health, saving some 2 to 3 million children’s lives each year.

As Jamaica joins the rest of the world in celebration of World Immunization Week from April 24 to 30, parents are being reminded that vaccination is in the best interest of the children.

The week is being observed under the theme: ‘Immunize for a Healthy Future: Know, Check, Protect’.

Dr. Munroe noted that the Ministry has been working on public education efforts to sensitise parents to the benefits of vaccination, and emphasized that increased immunization has resulted in people living longer, happier and healthier lives as well as less hospital admissions for Pneumonia and Meningitis.

“Immunization has eradicated Small Pox globally as well as Poliomyelitis (Polio) from five regions of the world, including the Americas.  Immunization has also achieved elimination or significant reduction of other diseases, such as Measles, Rubella and Congenital Rubella,” she added.

Dr. Munroe pointed out that Jamaica has improved its immunization programme over the past 10-12 years, increasing average coverage of BCG (tuberculosis), Polio; Diphtheria, Whooping Cough and Tetanus (DPT); and Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) from 84.5 per cent  in 1999 to 91.5 per cent  in 2013.

The Hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenza Type B vaccines were introduced in 2003 and 10 years later, in 2013, the coverage was averaging 92.8 per cent and 93.1 per cent,  respectively. She also explained that Jamaica is enjoying the highest coverage ever for MMR at 94 per cent.

She said the main goals of the Immunization Programme  are to: maintain the eradication of Polio, and the elimination of Measles, Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome; introduce new and underutilized vaccines; and maintain equity in the provision of immunization, by ensuring at least 95 per cent coverage for all vaccines in use in the national schedule.

Based on the statistics, the English-speaking Caribbean, including Jamaica, has led the way in the elimination and eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases in the Americas.

“The last case of Polio in Jamaica and the Caribbean was in 1982; the last case of indigenous Measles in the Caribbean occurred in Jamaica, in 1991; Diphtheria in Jamaica, 1995;  Congenital Rubella, 1998;  Rubella,  2000 and the last case of Newborn Tetanus was in 2001,” she noted.

The Immunization Regulations under the Public Health Act requires all parents to have their children vaccinated with the primary series of vaccines by the age of 12 months and to obtain booster doses as necessary thereafter.

It also mandates that children must be adequately vaccinated for their age, prior to entry to school and this includes day care and nursery facilities. The Regulations only allow for exemption from vaccination based on medical reasons and not on religious or philosophical beliefs.